No shame in poor Spanish

As an English speaker learning the Spanish language, it’s natural to feel a little self-conscious when it comes to speaking. There is no shame in speaking Spanish poorly (no hay vergüenza). Maybe you’re worried about making mistakes or not being understood, or perhaps you just feel like your skills aren’t quite up to par yet and you feel awkward (incómodo/incómoda) talking with people. Whatever the reason, there will come a time when you need to explain to someone that your Spanish isn’t very good.

But how do you do this without feeling embarrassed or apologetic? And more importantly, how do you do it in Spanish? In this article, we’ll look at some useful phrases and strategies for explaining your level of Spanish to others.

An awkward Spanish conversation

First and foremost, it’s important to remember that making mistakes is a natural part of the learning process. Nobody expects you to speak perfect Spanish right off the bat, and most people will be understanding and patient if you need to take a little extra time to communicate. With that in mind, here are some useful phrases for explaining your level of Spanish:

  • Mi español no es muy bueno. (My Spanish isn’t very good.)
  • Soy principiante en español. (I’m a beginner in Spanish.)
  • Todavía estoy aprendiendo el español. (I’m still learning Spanish.)
  • Perdón, no entiendo muy bien. (Sorry, I don’t understand very well.)
  • Necesito un poco más de tiempo para entender. (I need a little more time to understand.)

It’s also helpful to offer some context for why your Spanish might not be as good as you’d like. For example:

  • Soy nativo de (country) y estoy aprendiendo el español por primera vez. (I’m a native of (country) and I’m learning Spanish for the first time.)
  • Aprendí el español en la escuela, pero no lo he hablado mucho desde entonces. (I learned Spanish in school, but I haven’t spoken it much since then.)
  • Estoy tratando de mejorar mi español para un viaje que tengo planeado. (I’m trying to improve my Spanish for a trip I have planned.)

In addition to these phrases, there are a few strategies you can use to help make communication easier when your Spanish isn’t very good:

  1. Use body language and gestures. Even if you’re not sure how to say something in Spanish, you can often get your meaning across with a smile, a nod, or a gesture. This can be especially helpful when you’re trying to convey something simple or universal, like “Yes,” “No,” or “I don’t know.”
  2. Use cognates. Cognates are words that are similar in English and Spanish and have the same or a similar meaning. Some common cognates include “televisión,” “teléfono,” “turismo,” and “turista.” Knowing and using cognates can make it easier to communicate and can also help you learn new vocabulary.
  3. Use a translation app or dictionary. If you’re really stuck and can’t think of the right word, a translation app or dictionary can be a lifesaver. Just be sure to use these tools sparingly, as they can be a crutch and can also be a little slow.
  4. Ask for clarification. If you don’t understand something someone has said to you, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification. You can say something like ¿Puede repetir eso, por favor?